Global anxiety about the way companies use our personal data has risen by 8% since 2013. However, as we explored in ‘Trust: The Truth?’, even in the early 1990s, before the internet, the majority (66%) were concerned about their personal data. A rise of 8% is relatively small given that many people are now living in surveillance societies – and despite anxiety, few have dramatically changed their online behaviour in the west. Behaviour aside, the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, fears of voter manipulation around the 2016 Trump campaign and the Brexit referendum have made data privacy, if not sexy, definitely top of mind. Now, nearly three-quarters of the world are concerned about how companies are collecting their digital breadcrumbs – and what they plan to do with them. Governments are not held in much higher regard; globally 67% of us are concerned about how our governments use our personal data – a 6% rise since 2013.
More and more people see personal data being used by companies, and governments, to build a vast bank of inferred information that allows them to predict our personality, tastes and political pressure points. There is now an even greater desire for transparency; more than eight in ten think companies should give more detail upfront about the data that is collected by their websites. However, in spite of this growing concern and desire for clarity, people are becoming increasingly comfortable with data sharing.
Despite a growing suspicion that big data is being used nefariously, nearly half of us will happily give our information away in return for personalised services and products – a 7% rise since 2013. A similar pattern occurs with our willingness to share data with brands we like. In fact, despite our suspicions, the risk of data sharing is seemingly increasingly worth it – particularly in China and India where around two in three are happy with the data/personalisation trade-off.
Despite our suspicions, the risk of data sharing is seemingly increasingly worth it
This tension has been most pronounced in the past three years and is in part – perhaps unsurprisingly – driven by younger generations. More than half of Millennials and Gen Z are happy to trade data for personalisation – most likely because they are more exposed to the benefits: curated Spotify playlists, ASOS recommendations and TikTok’s algorithmically produced ‘For You’ videos. However, willing ignorance and apathy are also on the rise. Most of us now think that losing privacy due to technology is an inevitable part of the future (a 6% rise) and we are 11% more likely to think that people worry too much about online privacy. Despite the risk, an increasing number of us seemingly would prefer not to know too much – or care – about data privacy.